Relapse of major depression after complete and partial remission during a 2-year follow-up

J Affect Disord. 2003 Feb;73(3):237-44. doi: 10.1016/s0165-0327(01)00480-3.


Background: Rates of remission and relapse were studied over more than 2 years in a sample of Spanish outpatients with DSM-III-R criteria of unipolar major depressive episodes.

Methods: Patients were treated following standardised pharmacological protocols at our centre. In the first visit, the structured clinical interview for DSM-III-R (SCID) was used. The following visits were held monthly. Phases of evolution were recorded using the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS), applying the Frank criteria.

Results: A significantly greater proportion of relapse was observed in the partial remission group compared to the complete remission one. The rate of relapses for patients in complete remission was 15.18%, while for patients in partial remission was 67.61%. Partial remission was significantly associated with relapses.

Limitations: The short duration of the study and the decreasing sample size during the follow-up.

Conclusions: Partial remission after a depressive episode seems to be strongly associated with relapses. Moreover, this clinical factor could by itself fully predict short-term relapses.

Clinical relevance: The study shows the importance of reaching complete remission to decrease the rate of short-term relapses.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antidepressive Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / drug therapy*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / psychology
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychotherapy
  • Recurrence
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antidepressive Agents